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December 2, 2022

The Arizona State University charter states that inclusion is central to all ASU programs, courses, research, and other activities.

Students from the Tourism Student Association, a student organization based at the School of Community Resources and Development (SCRD), have dedicated their main fall 2022 activities to focusing on inclusive and accessible tourism, said Claire McWilliams, co -Longtime TSA faculty advisor.
A group of people sitting in a house smiling and waving during a conference call with a couple visible in an inset in the lower right corner of the screen.
Kevan and Katie Chandler (boxed bottom right), founders of and creators of a “human backpack,” visit members of the ASU Tourism Student Association during a recent movie night. Photo courtesy of Claire McWilliams
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McWilliams, a SCRD tourism and hospitality development and management lecturer, said the students decided before the semester began to have a full slate of fall programs living the charter mission.

McWilliams said she pitched the idea to TSA executives before the semester began because she admired a travel industry writer who was looking to travel beyond the constraints of her wheelchair and wanted to incorporate her work in club activities. From there, other ideas arose and a four-event schedule was created.

“In all my years advising the TSA, I have never been more inspired by what this student organization has achieved,” McWilliams said.

McWilliams said the fall lineup includes:

  • An appearance on September 28 from Marisol Vindiola of Visit Tucson, who spoke about cross-border tourism, which involves learning and being aware of the needs of customers, regardless of their point of origin.
  • A November 2 conversation with Ed Salvato, an author, editor and teacher who is a thought leader in the LBGTQ tourism community. Salvato explained how anyone can support inclusive tourism as it relates to the strong LGBTQ travel market. Salvato reminded future TSA tourism leaders to go straight to the root of hospitality, to invite, respect and protect, to avoid making assumptions and to use gendered language that focuses on the reason for the visit, whether it’s a camper, cruiser or guest,” McWilliams said. “When in doubt, he says, ask.
  • A “Fall Fireside” presentation on November 9 by Alison Brooks of Visit Mesa, with Camilo Bustos Navarro of Wheel the World and Brett Heising, consultant on disability and diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging. The three explained to students how universal design, training and partnerships can equip industry leaders and frontline service workers to help travelers overcome barriers to tourism activities related to neurodiversity and physical challenges. Visit Mesa’s leadership helped Mesa, Arizona’s third-largest city, become the first-ever autism-certified city in the United States.
  • A November 18 appearance by Kevan Chandler, author, lawyer and founder of, who managed to leave his wheelchair behind and traveled like a “human backpack” using an invention where he can be carried on the back of a hiker. TSA members raised more than $3,000 to purchase and outfit six of these adaptive backpacks, provide user training, and cover shipping costs. The members caught up with Chandler via Zoom and watched a documentary he produced. McWilliams said the members were touched by his bravery, confidence and total joy in dancing, running and getting to a 360 degree view atop the Great Wall of China – all in the backpack. adaptive with her friends carrying and supporting Chandler and enjoying the moments.

McWilliams said she was struck by a statement by Visit Mesa’s Brooks that everyone will become disabled at some point in their life, due to injury, age, illness or some other cause, and so adaptive tourism methods will ultimately apply to anyone seeking to travel.

McWilliams said all of the presenters emphasized that providing equal opportunities to all tourists is not only the right thing to do, but can be profitable for someone in the tourism industry who is opening up such opportunities to more people. people willing to spend on travel.

Students impressed by speakers’ messages

Salvato’s message resonated with TSA member Cailia Flatt.

Man carrying his friend on his back as they travel along the Great Wall of China.

Kevan Chandler (top) sits in a ‘human backpack’ as he joins friends traveling along the Great Wall of China. Photo courtesy of Kevan Chandler

“My biggest lesson was embracing the LGBTQ community. At the meeting, (Salvato) told us to shout out loud the words ‘lesbian’, ‘gay’, ‘bisexual’, ‘transgender’ and ‘queer’. /questioning” because it was something we could be proud of and not ashamed of,” Flatt said. “I’ve been an ally since my cousin got out of college. I’ve never been ashamed of it. talking; I was just afraid of offending someone. After the experience, I didn’t feel like I needed to censor my words anymore. The sooner we make it normal, the sooner it will be normal. C was what I thought after all that.”

TSA Secretary Jordyn Hoff said she finds the experience of each event rare.

“They got us thinking critically about how inclusivity will fit into any industry we want to get into. I could tell the students were so engaged through all of these events, that’s precisely what ‘an officer wants to see in their club,’ Hoff said. . “It was great to see inclusiveness locally with our Fall Fireside, across borders with Marisol, and globally with Kevan.”

TSA President Jeneca Kostad said she was “intrigued, inspired and amazed” at how students learned to overcome barriers to inclusion in the tourism industry.

“I believe our club is the next generation to make the world more inclusive as a whole, starting with travel and tourism,” Kostad said. “TSA is here to bring change to the tourism industry!”

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